top of page
< Back

SEMA-Ukraine, a survivors' organisation

SEMA conveys the voices of Ukrainian women who have been suffering from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as a result of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine. It advocates for the eradication of SGBV and for the protection of the rights, freedoms and public interests of women affected by war-related SGBV

SEMA-Ukraine, a survivors' organisation

SEMA-Ukraine is the umbrella organisation bringing together survivors of sexual violence in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, whether they be victims of the abuses committed in eastern Ukraine since 2014 or those, even more numerous, who suffered as a result of the Russian invasion in February 2022.

Chaired by Iryna Dovgan [photo 1], the organisation, founded in 2019 and initially made up of women who suffered illegal detention and abuse during the first Donbass war in 2014, has been joined by survivors of the mass rapes perpetrated by the Russian army since the large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Iryna Dovgan, SEMA-Ukraine's founder

The first difficulty to overcome is the failure to report the violence. This stems from the survivors' distrust of the authorities they turn to and the quality of the assistance provided. Another reason is the fear of being stigmatised within their community, or even their family.

SEMA-Ukraine and the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation are actively working with the Ukrainian government to increase reporting, in close collaboration with local communities. Working to improve the quality of support services available to victims of sexual violence, SEMA-Ukraine plays a dual role [photo 2]: ensuring that survivors can turn to the authorities in complete confidence and addressing the stigma attached to victims.

Photo extracted from the documentary Viols en Ukraine : documenter l'horreur © France 24

SEMA Ukraine's medium and long-term objective is to obtain justice, including reparations and sanctions against the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Documenting crimes, something lacking in areas that are still occupied or have recently been liberated, is therefore of paramount importance.

At the same time, SEMA-Ukraine supports the drafting of a law that would enable victims to obtain recognition, support and compensation for the harm they have suffered, independently of legal proceedings. The law ought to define the legal status of victims of sexual violence (rape, forced pregnancy, forced sterilisation, forced abortion, forced prostitution, etc.) linked to the Russian Federation's armed aggression against Ukraine since 2014, as well as that of their families when the victim who suffered sexual violence dies. It ought to determine the basis for reparation in order to meet the immediate needs of survivors of sexual violence.

It would also define the legal basis for creating and maintaining the national register of victims of sexual violence linked to the Russian Federation's armed aggression against Ukraine.


In order to obtain support from Ukraine's allies, a SEMA Ukraine delegation met with organisations and parliamentarians likely to support the fight of Ukrainian women victims of violence in London, Brussels and Paris [1] in November and December 2022. There were three types of requests for help:

- Setting up cooperation to facilitate the filing of complaints by Ukrainian victims who have taken refuge in European countries;

- Material and psychological assistance for victims of sexual violence, ensuring that they and their children are cared for not only in specialised services, but also in safe and appropriate places.

- Above all, long-term commitment to disseminating information about the nature and scale of the crimes committed by the Russian army. The survivors of this violence must be made visible in the public arena, so that they are recognised not as victims but as survivors.

The campaign against the silence surrounding the use of rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine therefore requires awareness-raising and mobilisation at all levels, from public opinion to government bodies, both in France and in Europe.

[1] SEMA-Ukraine has been working the Association pour la Défense de la Démocratie en Pologne  since March 2022 and, since January 2023, with For Ukraine, for their Freedom and Ours

bottom of page